Written in Black and Wight: M - Answers

1 Conversation

And now for this week's answers!


This week we have words brought to you by the letter M, and so naturally the week's theme is Maggots and Mothers, that classic, classy combination.

Isle of Wight

Mum's the Word

Miss Smiley

MotheryThick drink or food full of impurities
MumSmall insect or louse
MumchanceShy or silly person sitting quietly.
MummickFood cut unevenly
MummyDusk or twilight
MumpokerMonster used to scare children

Long gives us the following examples:

  • A zet there mumchanced up in the corner, and never zed a word, good, bad, or indifferent, all the time a was there.
  • Don't mummick that bread about zo; why casn't cut it fair?
  • 'Twas gitten mummy avore I come away, and 'twas zo dark I could hardly zee my hand avore me when I got to Apse.
  • If you don't gee off squinnyen, wold mumpoker 'ill come aater ye.

There are quite a few further examples I could use of the word 'mumchance', one of which is a nice spooky, scary story, but today I'll quote a verse from the poem 'Summer' found in Legends and Lays of the Isle of Wight by Percy Goddard Stone (1911).

When daay hev draan to eventide

Young couples 'gin to wander :

Wi' tender znoodlen zaide by zaide

They dro t' laanes meander,

Or han' in han'

All mumchance stan',

Laike zilly goose an' gander.

Slime and Snails and Puppy Dogs' Tails

Snail Smiley

MaggotA whim or mad fancy
MintsMites and other insects found in food
MitA maggot

And there are examples of their use in A Glossary of Isle of Wight Words by Major Henry Smith and Charles Roach Smith (1876) and A Dictionary of Isle of Wight Dialect by WH Long (1886). For 'maggot', the Smiths wrote:

He's vull o'maggots.

While Long used the following two examples:

The head on un es vull o'maggots.

What a maggoty feller that Will Chiverton es, you. He tarred his pig's back all
over t'other day, cause a zed 'twud keep the raain out on 'en the better.

Of course one of the more common Isle of Wight words still in use today is 'mallishag' for caterpillar, particularly gurt mallishags following the posionous mallishag invasion of the 1990s. Jack Lavers in his Isle of Wight Dialect (1988), as well as noting that minty cheese was considered a delicacy by many labourers, had the following example:

I ben out in gearden to cut a cabbage or two vor dinner, but they be very near all spwiled, and vull o'mallishags.

But I can't pass up the chance to quote Maxwell Gray, the penname of Newport author Mary Gleed Tuttiett (1846-1923), who in 1889 wrote The Reproach of Annesley. In one scene, Raysh the church gardener and the sexton1, talk in Isle of Wight dialect to Edward Annesley, who has returned to the church he had attended as a child. Annesley apologises to the gardener for his childhood naughtiness, with Raysh replying.

You and t'others, between ye, pretty nigh gallied me to death. Not as I bears no malice, bless 'ee. Buoys is made a purpose to tarment mankind, zame as malleyshags and vleys, and buoys they'll be till kingdom come, I hreckon.

Have I Lost My Marbles?

Let's hay a geeam o'marvuls.

Did you identify which of the following words does not mean one or more marbles?

  • Lob taw
  • Mariners
  • Marvul
  • Mivvies

'Mariners' is the Isle of Wight name for Nine Men's Morris, a two-player game played on a draughts board with each side having two counters. The others all mean marbles, with 'lob taw' a particularly big marble.

Main Round

It seems that every week we encounter the words 'Maade', meaning daughter, young girl or lass, as well as 'Mayet' meaning 'friend' or carter's assistant, but here are some new words for you.

Isle of Wight

Can You identify which of the three meanings is the correct one for the words below? We'll start with a couple of easy ones that aren't unique to the Isle of Wight.


  • Native hairy elephant.
  • Someone who frequently says foolish things.
  • Breastfeeding.

In a word unique to the Isle of Wight, Long provides the example,

There, onny look at her; ded ye ever zee sich a gurt zote, maamouthed thing as she es?


  • Headache
  • Mystic fortune-teller.
  • Very big wheels.

A megrim is a headache. Here is an example from Maxwell Grey's 1886 novel The Silence of Dean Maitland, set in the fictional village 'Malbourne' which sounds remarkably like Isle of Wight real village Calbourne.

"By the sword of my grandfather,” cried Everard, “I will not go in one of those confounded flys2. Let us walk. The weather is made for it. A country walk will drive ascetic megrims out of your brain."


  • To walk in a camp way.
  • A likeness or resemblance.
  • Gents loo.

Long provides the example,

The bwoy mences like his father.


  • A mechanic.
  • Ringing of church bells to signify French/Spanish/Dutch/Viking/German etc. invasion.
  • Dung Heap

Not a lot you can say about a dung heap, however Lavers adds 'Mexon also Mixon' and believes that the word originates from 'midden'.


  • Playing truant.
  • A wheel and/or top restaurant.
  • Michaelmas.

Miche indeed means to play truant, with Long providing the example:

That bwoy han't ben to school to day; he's ben michen.

Long also includes a letter written in 1880 by a parent who was only prepared to pay for their son's schooling on the days he was there3 and felt agrieved that the school was refusing to accept him without a further thruppence.

Mister - If you pleas my Johnny went to school this morning and I sent three apence and I told him that he was to tell you that he would bring tother apeny after he come home to dinner and you send him back again for three apence more and he did not come to school only a day and a haf last week and he brought a peny and I am sure that is enuff for a day and a haf and he havent been michen for I kept him at home to help
me and you send him home again three times for a nother peny and if Mister P - comes to me I shall tell he the rayson of it all he shall bring another peny when he goes to school in the morning and if you sends him back anymore I shall keep him away altogether and send him somewhere else.

Here is another example from Maxwell Grey's The Silence of Dean Maitland4, featuring a group of locals discussing the enigmatic and heart of the community Sunday school teacher Lillian Maitland in the local pub.

'That ar buoy Dick, whatever she done to he, nobody knows. A bad 'un he wer, wouldn't do nothing he hadn't a mind to. You med bate 'un till you couldn't stand. Wax have broke sticks about his back, and covered 'un with weals, but catch he gwine to school if he'd a mind to miche. I zes to Miss Lilian, I zes, ‘ I've a bate that ar buoy black and blue,' I zes, 'and I've a kep 'un without vittles this two days, and he wun't do nothun he an't a mind to.'

And she ups and zes, 'Stevens,' she zes, 'I should like to bate you' she zes. 'I should like to bate you green and yaller' she zes. 'Lard love 'ee, Miss Lilian, whatever would ye bate I for?' I zes, zes I. 'Because you are a fool, Stevens' she zes, 'and you are ruining that buoy, and turning him into a animal' she zes. And she took 'un up rectory, and kep' 'un there a day, and sent 'un home as good as gold. And she made me promise I wouldn't bate 'un no more for two good weeks, and I ain't bate 'un zince, and he'll do what he's told now without the stick. 'I should like to bate you green and yaller, Stevens,' she zes. And she'd a done it, she would, green and yaller—ah! that she would, mates.'

This isn't a word unique to the Isle of Wight, with Shakespeare himself using it by asking that very question that everyone should not ask themselves now and then in different stages of their lives;

Shall the blessed sun of heaven prove a micher, and eat blackberries?

- William Shakespeare Henry IV Part 1, Act II scene 4.


  • Something that is either tolerable, moderate, normal, exceptional or extraordinary.
  • Money bank guarded by a yellow griffin.
  • Very small person.

I hear you ask, How can a word mean both moderately tolerable and exceptionally extraordinary? I can only assume it is a bit like the word 'fine'. When someone says 'my wife/daughter/mother is fine today' it means normal, whereas the same word clearly means exceptionally extraordinary when Jackie Wilson sang 'She's so fi-i-i-i-i-ine, she's so fine fine fine' in song 'Reet Petite'

I could easily find dozens of examples, with Long and Lavers providing the following,

What cheer, you; how bist gitten on?

Oh, I be middlen, thenkee; how bist thee?

Oh, fairish, do'st know. Yes'day was a middlen sort o' ay.

Here is a verse from the poem 'Autum' found in Legends and Lays of the Isle of Wight by Percy Goddard Stone (1911).

An' then t' meyaster's Haarvest Hoam,

T' zupper an' t' zong.

—A middlen' dido us kicks oop

When laughter 's loud an' long—

An' clean vorgot be weather bad

An' zmut an' blight an' hwrong.


  • Someone who hoards money.
  • Extremely or very.
  • Small stool.

A very common word to mean very and extremely, often followed by the word 'bad'. Long provides the following examples:

They hosses yet a miserable lot o'corn last winter5.

Dost thee know Will Baker, you? he's a miserable gurt feller.

Fine mornen, you, edden't it? Oi, you, but 'twas a miserable rough night; dedn't the wind blow! I thought my chimley was comen down.

My faace ben terbul bad layetly; my teeth paains me zoo. The toothache es miserabble bad, 'tes wuss than anything, I bleeve; and every now'n ten the wold stumps 'ill gee sich a jump, and prid near jump out o'me head.

Lavers adds that that it is generally pronounced 'misabul' and gives the example,

'Twas a misabul time avore we got into Nippert.

And time for the last of today's Maxwell Gray (not to be confused with Maxwell House coffee), this time Unconfessed (1911).

Things are miserably harled up in this world, whatever they med be in the next.


  • Someone lost.
  • Sailmaker
  • Oozing, slowly discharging liquid.

Yes, an oozing liquid, although curiously the Smiths define 'Moise' for 'oozing' and 'Mize' simply as water.

Month's Mind

  • Full moon.
  • Labourer's pay-day.
  • Strong inclination

A strong inclination indeed. The Smiths wrote,

I'd a month's mind to a knock'd un down.

Long notes that the phrase 'Month's mind' originated before the Reformation but survived in common speech on the Isle of Wight to mean something completely different long after its original meaning was forgotten. A 'month's mind' was originally a mass held a month after someone died, with 'mind' in this context meaning remembrance or memorial.

Moonshun, also Moonlight

  • Eyes.
  • Smuggled alcohol.
  • Daydreaming and/or a foolish idea.

Smuggled alcohol, particularly spirits, just like 'moonshine' in 1920s America. The Smiths use 'moonshun', Long uses 'moonlight' and states it was usually brandy smuggled, while Lavers says 'Moonlight, also moonshine'.


  • Calving cow.
  • Bottom or backside
  • Argument that lasts so long it has become pointless.


  • Rough scarf.
  • Phlegm.
  • Rotten straw.

Yes, rotten straw – although unlike Long and Lavers, the Smiths spell it with two Ls.


  • Short and broken, especially straw trodden by cattle.
  • Messed up and disordered.
  • A riverbank at low tide.

How many words are there on the Isle of Wight for 'straw'? Well, there's ellum, hackle, heal, keeavun, litter, lock, muckel, mudgetty, nitch, pitch, scroff, straa, thetch, wad and weeaze for a start. I would go on, but I know what straw did to the camel's back.


  • Someone without magical ability.
  • A rat, also mongrel animal.
  • A very heavy weight that is a difficult shape to carry.


  • Wearing black as a symbol of bereavement.
  • Sweating with hard work in hot weather.
  • Working uselessly.

Yep, to work uselessly. Long states,

If ye keeps on mwoilen there to Zatterday night, ye won't yam yer salt.

While the Smiths once more have a slightly different spelling, with the following example:

Tis noo use to keep mwilun there.
Map of the Isle of Wight in words.
A - B - C - D - E - F
G - H - I - J - K - L
A reader of the h2g2 Post
The Bluebottle Archive


25.09.17 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1Who is complaining that despite the pride in his work and care to detail, no-one he has ever buried has come back to thank him afterwards.2Fast two-wheeled carriage.3Elementary education was made compulsory until the age of ten in 1880 and school fees were virtually abolished in 1891. Although education is of great social benefit, the Act did begin the decline in regional dialects and its implementation has been especially criticised in Wales, where all lessons were taught in English rather than Welsh.4Examples from Maxwell Grey are just like buses. Not a sausage since letter H, only for loads of good quotes to come along at once.5Those horses ate a great
deal of corn last winter.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Conversations About This Entry



Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry

Written by



h2g2 is created by h2g2's users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the Not Panicking Ltd. Unlike Edited Entries, Entries have not been checked by an Editor. If you consider any Entry to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please register a complaint. For any other comments, please visit the Feedback page.

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more